New British opposition leader makes Blair-Brown break

28th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

New leader Ed Miliband set out his vision Tuesday for returning Britain's opposition Labour Party to power on Tuesday by making a break with the past of ex-prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Miliband will tell his party's annual conference that he understands public anger about Labour's mistakes during their 13 years in government, which ended at a general election in May, according to pre-released extracts of his speech.

The 40-year-old's setpiece address in Manchester, northwest England, comes as a poll put Labour ahead of the ruling Conservatives for the first time since 2007.

Miliband, a fresh face to many British voters, was elected Labour leader on Saturday thanks to the votes of trade union members, edging out his elder brother David, who was more popular with lawmakers and party members.

Besides introducing himself to the wider public, his speech will also be an attempt to assert his authority and win over those who preferred his better-known brother, the former British foreign minister.

Their family drama, which has dominated the conference, rumbles on, with David Miliband refusing to reveal before Wednesday's deadline whether he will serve in Ed's top team.

Many members are calling for David to take the finance spokesman's brief, challenging the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition on its approach to reining in the record deficit run up under Labour.

Labour's task in hammering out a new economic policy was underlined when the new government won praise from the International Monetary Fund on Monday for its programme of deep cuts in public spending.

Ed Miliband was to say he understood public fury at Brown's proudest claim -- that he ended the boom and bust cycle during his decade as finance minister under Blair.

Miliband's admission that Brown's claim was wrong will be seen as a repudiation of his political mentor's record.

"It was courage that made us such a successful political force," he was to say.

"But our journey must also understand where it went wrong.

"How did a party with such achievements to its name end up losing five million votes between 1997 and 2010?

"Let me say this to the country directly: when you saw the worst financial crisis in a generation, I understand your anger that Labour hadn't stood up to the old ways in the City which said deregulation was the answer.

"When you wanted to make it possible for your kids to get on in life, I understand why you felt that we were stuck in old thinking about higher and higher levels of personal debt.

"And when you saw jobs disappear and economic security undermined, I understand your anger at a Labour government that claimed it could end boom and bust."

Given his trade union backing, Miliband has been dubbed "Red Ed" by some newspapers expecting him to drag Labour to the left.

But he was to call for a new approach "to once again make Labour a force that takes on established thinking, speaks for the majority and shapes the centre ground of politics."

A new poll in The Sun newspaper put Labour ahead of the Conservatives for the first time since Brown's brief honeymoon after taking over as prime minister in 2007.

Pollsters YouGov put Labour on 40 percent, the Tories on 39 percent, with the Liberal Democrats, their coalition partners in government, way down on 12 percent.

YouGov interviewed 1,948 adults on Sunday and Monday.

The Milibands' saga has been the main talking point of the conference, with David urging Labour to get over the "soap opera" in his address on Monday.

He also begged the party to bury the bitter infighting seen between the Blair and Brown camps, saying only a party united behind his brother could oust Prime Minister David Cameron's coalition from power.

© 2010 AFP

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